INDIANAPOLIS - This is Brett Brown's favorite time of the year. That may be a little eyebrow-raising, since his team lost for a franchise-record 21st straight time last night, 99-90, to the Indiana Pacers. But Brown is a big-picture type, which he certainly has to be during this season, and the big picture says that when the weather starts to get warmer and the daylight stays around longer, Brown is at his happiest.
There are the NBA playoffs, which will hold his interest this year even though he won't be participating, something he did regularly while in San Antonio. There's the NCAA Tournament, and also the preparation for the NBA draft, which will roll him right into summer.
So is there a prediction for March Madness?
"I have watched some [college hoops] but not enough to even form an opinion," Brown said. "I love this time of year, I do say that. I really like the next few months. You pay attention to the playoffs - normally we were in them [with the Spurs]. I like watching the March Madness and the NCAA basketball and I love getting involved with the draft. I really, really love the assessment process that goes on with 'Who do you draft?' Just selfishly and for me personally, this next period of time [is great]. It's exciting."
If anyone is in need of some excitement after the Sixers' season ends, it's Brown, who has somehow remained positive and generally excited about the future of the franchise, though it is at practically an all-time low.
"I'm obsessed by it [watching film on potential draft picks]. I will watch a lot, as will my staff," Brown said. "Ultimately, there will be a group that's formed that makes decisions led by Sam [Hinkie, general manager]. We are trying to build this together. Any decision with significant importance will be made by a small group of people in consultation with each other and we'll move along. I've got faith in Sam. He was brought in for that reason, that's his strength. Along with the analytics and judgment from that side of it, you got an old coach over here who has opinions, too, and Sam is fantastic in allowing voices. And the owners are fantastic at allowing voices to be heard to decide which direction we will draft."
Yes, the loss to the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse last night did set the franchise record for futility, but the Sixers actually did play one of their best games in a long time. Brett Brown likes to say the game often changes for the 76ers in the blink of an eye. Due to a valiant effort by his team, though, the game didn't really change that quickly.
Instead, it was a 3-minute, 39-second span to end the third quarter that helped decide it.
Though the Pacers shot only 6-for-27 in the third quarter, including three of their first 18, Indiana outscored the Sixers by 12-4 to end the quarter and led by 75-67 entering the final 12 minutes. The Sixers still stuck around, and were within 88-85 inside of 2 minutes remaining. But Indiana (50-17) held on to post the win.
"Man, they played hard and they played good," the Pacers' Evan Turner said of his former teammates. "That is something that Brett has always preached, to play hard no matter the circumstance. Everyone knows what this year is about for the Sixers, but playing hard has always been something that is expected, and they certainly did that tonight."
Thaddeus Young led the Sixers with 23 points, while Tony Wroten and Hollis Thompson each added 17. Michael Carter-Williams collected 15 points, 13 rebounds and five assists for the Sixers (15-52).
"We were there, we really were there," said Brown. "It's a great learning lesson for Michael, leaving a corner and George Hill hits a three when it's a three-point game. Tony making up his own rotations. They are well-coached and they have so much talent, we played them hard three times."
With nothing really to show for it, though this loss was a healthy one.
Lance Stephenson had 25 for Indiana, while Paul George scored 24, making 15 of 16 foul shots. The Sixers made just 11 of their 20 free throws for the game.